In the spring of 2007, Mark Jablonowski ’10 set out to get involved in a presidential campaign. He ended up spending the summer working for Barack Obama in New Hampshire, knocking on thousands of doors and making thousands of phone calls in gearing up for that state’s primary.
And then the campaign got wind of Jablonowski’s considerable technical and management skills.
On leave after one year at Colby, where he had planned to be a government/philosophy double major, he soon jumped from field intern to become the Obama campaign’s information technology director for New Hampshire. After New Hampshire, Jablonowski was moved to campaign headquarters in Chicago, and then on to key primaries in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. At each stop, he was charged with helping to put in place all of the equipment and systems for what was by most accounts the most technologically advanced presidential campaign ever.
The Obama campaign is widely acknowledged for its pioneering use of the Internet for raising money and communicating with supporters. Making much of that possible was behind-the-scenes work done by Jablonowski and the tech team.
“Blackberries, laptops, servers, copiers, fax machines, coffee makers—anything with an electrical cord.”
“When you’re in the field,” he said, “you have to be a jack of all trades.”
It was Jablonowski, with others, who pioneered innovative ways to use products like desktop virtualization, allowing multiple keyboards to run off a single computer, giving the campaign “more seats per dollar,” he said. And voice-over Internet protocol was used for inexpensive calling.
“I was managing a lot of the negotiation for large contracts that we had and coming up with new innovative uses of technology that haven’t necessarily been seen on campaigns before,” Jablonowski said.
After Obama won the Democratic nomination, Jablonowski was named the Obama for America IT special projects manager. In an organization known for its youth, he was one of the youngest staffers at the campaign, he said.
Now the 21-year-old Anchorage, Alaska, native is chief technology officer for the inauguration, leading the team responsible for communications infrastructure, internal networks, and security. Jablonowski also oversees the team that is managing data collection for donor information and ticket lists.
No surprise, then, that time off is rare and days on are long. “In terms of the number of days I’ve had off, there have been close to zero,” Jablonowski said, at the inauguration offices in Washington, D.C.